Yet another white guy cast in a non-white starring role


Please review your comments in light of the example I gave above regarding the use of Native American tribal names for sports teams. Your argument would logically suggest that you support sports organizations such as the Washington Redskins in their use of such names. However, I doubt that that is actually the case. This is the sort of self-determination that I am talking about. And if you think this lies outside the mainstream of American rights and principles, maybe consider it as “reparations”. And let me point out once again that Hawai‘i is not a part of the United States, it is an illegally occupied sovereign nation.


What point are you trying so diligently to make?


Thanks! I actually thought I was being a bit on the gruff side. I was kind of going for that “Zen master who believes in your potential but doesn’t hesitate to wield the bamboo staff sometimes”.


Nope, I said the way to battle it is in the court of public opinion, as has been successful, rather than asserting a right to control cultural imagery and such. I just don’t believe I as a Jew have a right to control how Jesus or Moses are portrayed. Obviously Muslims feel more sympathetically to you, FWTW. I believe in free speech and that culture is public domain.

That free speech includes your right to protest as much as you want and change the playing field of public opinion. Its worked so far, the portrayal of native peoples has dramatically changed in my lifetime, with no “property rights” to culture affirmed. The sports team imagery is now “in bad taste”, which is fine with me.

I appreciate your feelings and position, but I look at the slippery slope. We would end up with writers and artists who could not portray anything not of their heredity and gender. What about age, region, or even education? Should a college boy be able to write about a dropout? Isn’t that appropriation? If it was, then there would likely be few giving voice to that demographic.


I think it’s a bit hypocritical to get all breathless about a white guy playing a Hawaiian, but completely ignore African Americans etc playing white people.


Well, I suppose that would seem equivalent if you completely ignored history.

White people have been enforcing white cultural norms by co-opting and covering over existing culture for centuries. Whitewashing roles is just one aspect of that. If you replace a black or Asian part in a production with a white person, that representation is gone. Whiteness is simply too omnipresent to be erased by putting a person of color in the role of a white historical figure. Also, because so few roles are written specifically to allow POC and because on neutral/unspecified roles white people get the role 99 times out of 100, the opportunities for POC in theater, TV, and movies simply aren’t there. We need to let them in. Sometimes that will mean POC playing white historical figures, and that is ok and not equivalent to whitewashing.

Edit to add: this week’s Code Switch podcast is about the paucity of roles for Asians in theater and how that relates to Miss Saigon. It’s worth a listen.

#NeedsMoreLikes (formerly known as "All the Likes")

No offense, but from an indigenous perspective, your approach seems to be all intellectual. Hawaiians talk about the na‘au, which is an energy center in roughly the area of the solar plexus, and is the center of emotional intelligence (and more). Kind of like “gut feeling”, but far more rich and subtle. This gives rise to such words as na‘auao (enlightened belly) and na‘aupō (benighted belly).

You wrote:

“The sports team imagery is now “in bad taste”, which is fine with me.”

Yes, “in bad taste”! When we allow our bodies a voice along with our intellects, it is not always necessary to prognosticate about such things as slippery slopes.

Your also wrote:

I believe in free speech and that culture is public domain.

Hawaiians most definitely do not believe that culture is in public domain. As an example, under US copyright law, once a song has been recorded, anyone is free to record it, as long as they pay royalties. In Hawaiian custom, it is also necessary to ask permission from the composer or their descendants. Failing to do this can result in various strictures, including but not limited to getting stink eye from the aunties when you go grocery shopping.

And BTW, as a non-Jew with a Jewish (Hungarian refugee) partner, I’m a bit shocked that you are so cavalier about the portrayal of Jesus in European culture. The image of Jesus as a brown-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned European has been a key enabler of anti-semitism for as long as European painters have controlled his image.


Go get 'em bottleimp! Mahalo nui!

Edited to add:

I’m going to borrow what you wrote, if you don’t mind. I know this won’t be the last time I come across this false equivalency, and you put it really well!


Right? I was off searching for a good Racism 101 piece, but that comment fits the bill perfectly.


I think it’s ludicrous, but I have no illusions that I can, or should, have the “right” to do something about it. That line of thought leads to cartoonists being murdered. Slippery slope. If I cared enough I’d make fun of it as publicly and as often as I could.

I like to believe that just laws aren’t about making everyone happy, but of protecting the most freedom for the most people. Once you give everyone a “right” to denounce anyone whose art even slight strays from their own demographic, freedom of speech is in trouble.


If you think it’s ludicrous, why NOT do something about it? Like say, pointing out that a relative’s white Jesus painting is just that, a silly whitened one. You certainly do have such a right.


Please, feel free. I’m just just pleased I appear not to have put my foot in my mouth. I’ve tried to express this sort of thing and stumbled on it in the past.


Why dont you care much about it? Sinply because it doesnt seem to affect you much personally? Surely you’re not thst selfish, since you’re commenting here…


At least in the U.S., there is a well-established right to denounce anyone, without quotation marks.

That right is not what this article is about.

It seems like somebody wants to change the subject to censorship, and talk about that instead.


No, I don’t. And that is idiotic.It is not a binary choice.

  1. We’re talking about art, not cultural artifacts.
  2. Should an author be able to write a novel involving a native American?
  3. Was Shakespeare committing a sin when he wrote Othello? Should it be
    banned from performance?
  4. Donald Trump, Russia, the Klan and Neo Nazis would also like to control
    how they are portrayed in the media. How is that different? You need to
    articulate a rule that provides a clear dividing line, not an ad hoc ruling
    case by case.
  5. Self determination has to do with what YOU do, not with what people
    think about what you do. If you are free to do what you want, you have self
    determination. If someone else finds you interesting, and is inspired to an
    artistic meditation on it, that does not detract from your self
    determination. But if you demand they stop, you have detracted from theirs.
  6. No matter what your culture is, you can’t wall it off from the rest of
    the world. If it is part of human experience, it is a fit subject for art,
    not just for certain approved artists.
  7. I’ve been following Boing Boing for quite a long time now, probably
    longer than most of you. And it is truly disturbing the extent to which, in
    the past couple of years, the comments have become an exclusionary,
    groupthink, anti-liberal environment. A FUNDAMENTAL tenet of liberal
    thought is freedom of speech, even for people whose speech you disagree
    with. But that principle seems to have a tenuous existence here anymore.
    The argument over “whitewashing” is a case in point. As of now, the
    principle seems to be “if you are not a member of the culture being
    portrayed, you have no right to portray it ever, at all.” OK, then how
    about black Hamlet? Is it ONLY non-majority populations that have free

For several weeks now, I have been debating whether I want to continue
engaging with this community. I am the most liberal person you will ever
meet, but in the Enlightenment sense of the word. Everyone should have the
freedom to pursue their interests, wherever they lead. I surmise you


You have a right to make a bad movie in a bad way.

Other people have a right to talk shit about it because it’s bad.

The OP is not about rights, it’s about bad decisions.


Oh my, you sound oh so very disappointed in Boing Boing…:scream:


OK, bruddah, I am idiotic and you are the most liberal person I will ever meet. Got it.

Every native rights activist and ally has heard all of your arguments over and over again. And I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all, of them would be saying the same kind of things that I have said.

I believe very strongly in the right to free speech as put forth in your US Constitution. I also believe that human beings who are Pono (living in harmony, balance, and proper relationship with all beings and with the physical and spiritual worlds) are capable of doing the right thing without laws to force them to do it. I am not talking about legislating who plays what in some damn Hollywood movie. I am talking about the makers of those movies having enough heart to do the right thing because that is what they want to do.

And since you are the most liberal person I will ever meet, I will say goodbye now secure in the knowledge that you will campaign for the withdrawal of US troops and governance from the sovereign nation of Hawai‘i. Mahalo!



But the OP is about “whitewashing,” not bad decisions. Otherwise I totally


Well, yes, primarily because, as I said and as you illustrate, you guy are not interested in a discussion. You are interested in signifying tribal allegiance.